My foray into the Elder Scrolls series began with Oblivion. Put away your pitchforks, I’ve nothing against Morrowind it just wasn’t my first step. Since Oblivion I’ve been in love with the series and have spent until hours in Skyrim living my fantasy of being a wizard, knight, thief, assassin, and occasionally “weirdo that fills the house with cheese wheels.” I am reasonably sure anyone who has ever played Skyrim has at some point been in a dungeon or on an adventure and said to themselves, “Wow, I wish I could bring my friends with me.” So naturally I was intrigued by the idea of an Elder Scrolls Online. It being an MMO I have been skeptical and held it at an arm’s length. My personal feeling about IPs going the MMO route, as I have said before, is that “an MMO is where a series goes to die.”
It’s simply that going back from an MMO is very difficult, as the Warcraft and Old Republic IPs are discovering. I’d love to be wrong about it but thus far it seems to be consistent.
So where was I? Ah yes, my outrage regarding Elder Scrolls Online. You see the series has a special place in my heart so I am afraid of being burned. Much as I enjoyed WoW, GW2, and SWTOR, none of them really met the expectations I had. Therefor I was trying to avoid the ESO hype train so as to not get my hopes up. Then I read posts like j3w3l’s glowing review of the class, skill, and combatsystems. It sounded for a moment like ESO might actually “feel” like Skyrim, but one I can visit with my friends.
Still, I am hesitant because of the number of very single-player centric features that occur in Elder Scroll games, such as housing. I’ll keep watching to see how they handle that. But as I research I find they’ve gone and deviated from the Elder Scrolls lineage in a way that shook my interest.
First they went and made factions which does not surprise me but I think was a bad idea. Factions fracture and limit the player base for no reason but to generate a justification for PvP and you are always forced to pick a faction and stick with it forever. I hated that idea; why does my Night Elf HAVE to side with Varian and Tyrande even if they are doing a terrible job of leadership and I think Vol’jin has some great ideas? Why does my Pandaren magically forget how to speak to half of her people if I choose to wear and Alliance tabard? Why am I stuck with my faction no matter how much they might warp the ideals that brought me to them in the first place?
I digress, the short version is that I think these permanent, racially-segregated factions are silly. While the Elder Scrolls series always has had factions fighting each other, they have always been open to the player. Though sometimes you had to choose one over the other, you had a choice. In Skyrim I could be a Nord who sides with the Empire, or an Imperial who helps free Skyrim. ESO is not like that, instead they lock races to specific alliances. I could have lived with it but I would not have been happy because it goes against their past.
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But then they went and introduced pre-order bonuses and the “Imperial” edition. Reading it, I felt like someone had punched me right in the nostalgia. Pre-ordering removes the faction/race restrictions and the Imperial edition unlocks the Imperial “race” for play. In short they’ve taken away many of the character creation options unless you buy the game upfront. So they want me to pre-order (a risky move already) AND buy the collector’s edition to have the same level of choice for character creation that I have had in all the previous games.
Now to some races are just a cosmetic choice; but I see them as your most fundamental cosmetic choice. They are the most concrete and are how you represent yourself in game. Limiting them in such a drastic way and putting it behind the pre-order paywall is an insulting cash grab and goes against a fundamental part of the Elder Scrolls series.